U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) on Thursday, March 21 introduced the Prepare All Kids Act to help states provide at least one year of voluntary, high-quality prekindergarten to all children in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate on March 6, 2013.
"High-quality early education puts children on a path to succeed academically and in life," said Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. "In order to have a skilled workforce for the 21st century, we must ensure that education is a priority. Research has proven how vital investment in early education is to ensuring that no child starts school behind, and that is why this bill is so important to families in Pennsylvania and nationwide."
There is growing support for the expanding access to pre-K. During his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. Decades of research and data shows that investments in high-quality early education helps close the achievement gap, increases high school graduation rates, and reduces the need for special education. These investments also lower the rates of criminal activity and dependence on public assistance. In fact, one study found that for every dollar invested in high-quality early education, taxpayers saved $7 in other costs
Congresswoman Schwartz is a longtime champion of early education. As a state Senator, she successfully expanded access to full-day kindergarten for Pennsylvania's children. In addition, Representatives Schwartz and Maloney first introduced the Prepare All Kids Act in 2007.
"One of the most important steps we can take for our economy and our children is to invest in early education," Senator Casey said. "Having at least one year of pre-K will better prepare our children in an increasingly competitive global economy. Every child deserves a chance to develop their talents, and a year of pre-K is essential to doing that."
"High-quality early childhood education is an investment that helps to close the achievement gap and reduce spending later on remedial education, incarceration and economic dependency," said Sharon Easterling, Executive Director, Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children. "As Pennsylvanians, we can be enormously proud of Congresswoman Schwartz's leadership to make these resources available for all children."
The Prepare All Kids Act is also supported by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), the National Women's Law Center, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the First Focus Campaign for Children.
"PPC applauds Congresswoman Schwartz for her leadership on this important issue. There is compelling research showing the benefits of high-quality pre-kindergarten on school readiness and success beyond school, said Joan Benso, PPC's President and CEO. "While Pennsylvania began to invest in pre-kindergarten over roughly the past 10 years, our investments still only provide publicly funded pre-k to about 1 in 6 three- and four-year old children in our state. We need to build on this effort."
Prepare All Kids Act Summary:
Provide at least one year of voluntary, high-quality prekindergarten, with a focus on children from low-income families and children with special needs.
Ensure high-quality learning by requiring prekindergarten programs to utilize a research-based curriculum that supports children's cognitive, social, emotional and physical development and individual learning styles.
Ensure a high-quality learning environment by limiting classroom size to a maximum of 20 children and children-to-teacher ratios to no more than 10 to 1.
Ensure high-quality teaching by requiring that prekindergarten teachers have baccalaureate degrees (within 6 years), with support for teacher educational development.
Provide designated funding for much-needed programs serving infants and toddlers, from birth through 3.
Meet the needs of children and working parents by providing specific funding that states can use to expand programs to full-day and year-round.
Support and reinforce the importance of other early childhood programs such as Head Start and child care programs by maintaining existing funding levels for those programs.
Ensure continued prekindergarten program quality by requiring states to develop and enforce a monitoring plan.
Support the critical role of parents in the education of their young children by encouraging parental involvement in programs and assisting families in getting the supportive services they may need.